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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Autism, COVID-19, and Misinformation

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss autism quackery.  One particularly dangerous "cure" involves bleach.  Lately, the quacks hawking a bleach solution have rebranded it as a cure for coronavirus.

Some autism parents are fighting back.
Melissa Eaton, Anne Borden King, Emma Dalmayne and Amanda Seigler write at The New York Times:
For the past five years, as concerned parents of autistic kids, we’ve been documenting, following and reporting the “bleach cures” movement. The Genesis II Church and Kerri Rivera, among others, have been selling products like chlorine dioxide, marketed as “Miracle Mineral Solution,” or M.M.S., stating that the substances will cure autism, acne, cancer, diabetes, Covid-19 and so much more. This is a crucial red flag for pseudoscience: When a product claims it can cure anything, it’s a fake.
From monitoring these groups, we’ve watched as the marketing of the “biomedical cure” industry has become increasingly linked with a distrust of social institutions in general. Much of it is based around the autism-vaccine myth, first made popular by Andrew Wakefield and later perpetuated by Jenny McCarthy, Robert Kennedy Jr. and others.
President Trump himself has lent support to the autism-vaccine myth, tweeting in March 2014:
The belief that there is a link between vaccines and autism has been disproved by many studies, but some parents still decline to vaccinate their children. As a result of lower vaccination rates, communities around the world have experienced outbreaks of measles, mumps, rubella and other serious illnesses.
...Thousands of parents have been swayed into the dark world of autism “biomedicine” and their children have become 24-hour test subjects for dangerous protocols such as M.M.S., chelation and other products that have no evidence of benefit and clear evidence of harm. We think of the case of Abubakar Tariq Nadama, who died following a “chelation for autism” treatment.

Think about the message this sends to children with autism. To know your parents want to “cure” your neurological differences to the extent that they would feed you bleach multiple times a day is devastating.